Faith and Minimalism: A Practice

Humans have faith in a lot of different things/gods/goddesses and to me that’s totally cool.  Different strokes for different folks.  The most important thing to me is faith in something bigger than yourself.  This will come around to Minimalism so hang in there with me for a few moments.

Faith:  Complete trust or confidence in someone or something-from the Concise Oxford American Dictionary.

Spiritual:  of, relating to, or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things also (of a person) not concerned with material values or pursuits-again from the Concise Oxford American Dictionary.

I believe its important to have faith in something and that in that faith of something to have a spiritual practice of some sort to back it up.  I believe that its important for us as people to practice some ethics whether an internal code or one already written.

And this is why:

People benefit from a spiritual practice, as far as I can tell any spiritual practice increases confidence, lowers stress, strengthens internal ethics and helps build compassion and love for the whole world, and we all know we need more of that around!

How it relates to Minimalism:

To me, minimalism can be a spiritual practice of sorts, aestheticism, simplicity, even some austerity all at some point or another were praised by great thinkers, philosophers and clerics of many denominations.  People like Emerson, Virginia Wolfe, John Muir, Edward Abbey all creative folks, many focused on pursuing a life of meaning, some devoted to nature and being out in the natural world.

There is something deeply akin to Minimalism in religious austerity, and simplicity for the sake of creativity.

But without faith in something, even faith in yourself you will never finish and will never reach a state of simplicity or minimalism.  You have to believe you will and then you can!  This is to me a spiritual practice that I need to remind myself of regularly.  Minimalism is a practice.  It takes constant attention and curating objects, diligence in what to allow into our lives.  Even how we spend our time.  This is why for me Minimalism is a path more than a destination, a constant striving to live within the framework of simplicity, which is as odds with most of American culture.  And as with any path it meanders, it curves, there are road blocks, obstacles and internal things we have to deal with to succeed and this is why we need faith.  The belief and confidence that we can finish.  That we will, finish.  And that we will begin to live a life of continual curation…a sort of finish until we start, sort of idea.  Because the jettison of things we own, that’s just the start of the journey…

Practice, Practice, Practice

Nowadays, there might be a lot of lip service to the phrase ‘practice’ in regards to a number of different tasks, however I feel like there is very little content in this catch phrase.  What does it truly mean to ‘practice’ something?

There is a book (I have not read it) called Atomic Habits and it breaks down larger goals and practices into very bit sized chunks sidling them with things you already do in order to achieve success in reaching these new goals.  I have heard it’s a fantastic book and very helpful, check it out!

But what does having a practice mean, or to practice something?  In a world where consequences are so far removed from the actual action its hard to correlate the two.  How do I get from point A to point B when I don’t understand that my particular action will garner a certain response.  It’s very much like physics.  I’m not saying we are stupid or not smart, just that we fail sometimes to understand how our actions come to fruition in our lives.

Ok, so practice…doing a thing over and over again in order to become proficient at something…my definition.  So if I spend all my time say, swimming, I will become a better swimmer without much trying.  Most of the time we spend a lot of time practicing things we don’t really have an intention about getting better at, or worse yet we dont want to get better at, for example texting and driving, fighting with a spouse/partner, hitting the snooze button.

This is where intention becomes important.  Intention is the rudder in a boat that directs us, corrects us and brings us back to the line we want to be on.

So practice!  If we commit to spending time (being intentional) about what we choose to practice, we will get better at it.  Practice throwing out something every day and you will get better at letting go.  Practice keeping a surface clean for every day for two weeks and you will get better at it.  But like a muscle it will fade without use.  So pick three things today you want to practice and do them today.  Then do them tomorrow and keep doing them until you have the ‘practice’ you want, and grow that practice muscle!

Good Luck,

The Slow Minimalist

Re-evaluate, Re-discover, Re-invent

The phrase Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, common in ecological minded people and communities is a great phrase.  It’s a distinct and helpful reminder, even a goal that some try to live up to, I have tried for sure.  I wanted to go deeper.  I wanted to look at minimalism with in a similar structure, so here we go.

Re-evaluate:

Form an idea about the value of, to assess again.

As minimalists and I believe as humans, we need to constantly reassess and reevaluate those items we own as to their use, value, and benefit.  I feel we need to always be willing to take an objective view of our items, to try to view them with distance and attempt to hold all the things we own with loose open palms, even relationships (maybe especially relationships).

This takes action.  Conscious action on our part.  We must sit with our things, think about them from time to time and ask the hard questions; Is this useful?  Do I need this?  Have I used this recently?  Do I plan to use this in the next few months (ie is it a seasonal item)? Does it make me happy?  Or does it just take up space?  Is it clutter?  Am I getting value from this/that item?

I believe this is a practice.

A practice like exercising, or meditating or starting a new habit.

It requires energy and the conscious choice to engage.

Re-discover:

Once more to find something/someone unexpected or in the course of a search.  This idea to me could be a double-edged sword.  I don’t necessarily think this is a good practice in regards to your donation bags/boxes.  However, I think it is good to look at the items you have and once you re-evaluate an item to keep, actively place the item in your environment that makes the thing useful again.  This may mean moving an item from storage to your home environment.  I would encourage that if you do this be very objective, maybe give yourself a time limit and test it.  If you do not use this item you reintroduce into your environment in a week (or two or a month) get rid of it for good and let someone else use it.  Free Markets are good for items like this, items in good repair, useful, but no longer useful to you.

Re-invent:

To recreate or redesign something.

Take that old quilt with holes and cut it into rags, patch it with old worn out clothes, turn it into a smaller blanket…reuse.  Take an old lamp and get a new shade, go to a thrift store to do this, re-gift an item to a friend or family member.  Be creative, repaint something, rearrange a room and add back an item you just cant let go.  Be thoughtful, be mindful.

There is no special number of items you need to “get down to”, to be a minimalist.  Being a minimalist can be about a number of ideas, design, simplicity, austerity.  But you make your own minimalism, just like snowflakes, minimalism is individual and how you do it reflects your personal tastes, and tendencies.  The only rules you need are the ones you make up or find value in using.

Good luck,

Have a lovely week,

The Slow Minimalist

The Heart of the Matter

So as I begin to unpack the source of my feelings of food insecurity, I am beginning to understand that I react to food scarcity in a very visceral and almost violent way (at least internally, my reaction is intense, and big and feels scary).  It’s hard to mitigate, talk myself down and all that.  As I live communally the past several years I have had many opportunities to deal with this but it never quite clicked in my head that I was being triggered until now.

Seems like either Karma, the Universe, or god/God continues to present us with the opportunity to learn and grow and we have the chance to say yes or no.  As it is with this in my life thus far.  I have spent some years feeling shame about my perceived inability to be generous around food, most especially with roommates.

Outside the heat of the most recent incident in the matter (Please see my previous blog post Food, Sharing, and When Someone Steals Your Motherfucking Lunch posted earlier this week)  I am finding some time to reflect on the upset trying to get to the heart of the matter:  how do I connect the dots in my life; how does this affect/effect me in regards to my minimalism; how easy or hard it is to get rid my possessions at this point?

For me this is the heart of the matter, the inside juicy bits, the interesting parts, part of the why I am a minimalist.

For me, there is the How and the Heart.

 

The How is the mechanical basics like:

How do I get rid of this?

How do I sell this?

The prefunctory-ness of it all.  The nuts and bolts, the down and dirty, the getting down to brass tacks.  There is stuff in my  life that fell into this category.  Most of my clothes fall into this arena, paper does as well, once I sit down and look through it but unfortunately it just takes a bunch of my time so I find it hard to deal with right now, also some surfacey household items that are not daily use can be initially easy to get rid of.  This is all the How to me.

 

The Heart

The Heart however requires more work.  It requires reasoning out, evaluating motives, making conscious decisions, letting go, internal work on myself, asking the hard questions and being willing to look at the answers, and times like now of contemplation.  The separating out of this is a thing as opposed to this embodies a person to me.  What is need and what is want?

Questions like:

How does this serve me?

Do I own this just because it is a status symbol to others/myself?

What IS the reason I own this?

Being willing to sit with an item/s until you find the answer sometimes.  What is at the heart of an item, the real reason we own it, how does it move us or touch us or control us?  And deeper still, why can’t I get rid of this thing/s?  This is my journey.

Namaste,

The Slow Minimalist

 

 

Sharing, Food Insecurity and When, Someone Steals Your Mother Fucking Lunch

Pain, pain, pain…Brene Brown uses this practice to label when she is feeling shame and the seemingly reciprocal need to blame others when pain happens in her life.  I know I’m buggering it up but its in her book Daring Greatly, which I highly suggest.

Today someone stole my lunch and let me tell you it feels just as bad as when I was in sixth grade, and yes I am crying.  Now most people think this is not a big deal, and I suppose compared to homelessness or some such thing it’s not, but the thing is….to me it is a big deal.  And yes I can still afford, or put together something to eat today for lunch, but I really am tight.  But like many Americans, I experience some small bit of food insecurity and when the girl you like, hands you two salads and you think Yeah!!! I have lunch for two days, something good and nutritious that you can take to work for the rest of the week, well its pretty damn exciting!  And consequently when someone takes it for THEIR lunch instead, we have the ensuing Pain, Blame, Shame cycle.

Here’s how it goes:

Pain, Pain, Pain, anger, Fuck, anger, Dammit, What the hell?! (obviously still anger) tears, That was MY lunch!  Despair-What am I going to do now?  Shame-I can’t really afford to replace it…small shame spiral here about how I’m living my life and how is it that as an educated adult I cant afford another salad from Weaver Street Market?  and how unbelievably broke I am after moving just a couple of weeks ago, and omg I don’t have any savings, yada yada…it just goes on.  Insert your own shame spiral here, we all have them.

So not only am I out lunch, I am beating myself up about it.  It makes communal living really hard sometimes.  I like it, and mostly its pretty great and let me tell you the access to land, chickens, community, pet and the like is really fantastic.

But people taking my food…its really tough.  I have a lot of issues about food scarcity and food insecurity from growing up pretty poor in my formative years.  Around the time my mother left my father (they were separated for a couple of years and he didn’t hardly pay child support) she was on Aid for Dependent Children and we were on Food stamps.  The time span wasnt very long a few years, before my mother finished Grad School and got a better job and remarried.  But I was maybe six years old when they split and then nine years old when she remarried.  Those three years of scrimping and scraping, years of scarcity really affected me when it comes to food.

Some twenty years later its a really issue.  And it really hits a terribly vulnerable spot inside me.  We were lucky, I don’t recall going to bed hungry but we ate a lot of eggs, PB and J, liver and spaghetti.  I guess this is why I’m so torqued out of shape by a housemate taking my lunch…

I don’t have many answers today.  But I do know that even with my issues and apparent food scarcity trauma that I am unpacking now, it’s never cool to take what isn’t yours.

I also know its ok to feel the pain of it, even important to feel it and not stuff it.  Some part of me feels a little chagrined, but I give myself permission to feel all the feelings without judgement.

So if there is some pain you are feeling today just know that its ok to feel it.  Label it as pain.  Feel it without judgement.  Give yourself permission.  And then when your done try to let it go.  That’s what I’m gonna try to do.

Good luck luvs!

Slow Minimalism

What do I mean by slow minimalism?

I mean a couple of things actually;

One Minimalism that can take some time, a slow process.  But most recently as I pondered this idea that minimalism is a destination, I realized that minimalism is a practice, a daily choice and that yes maybe you arrive at a point that you say to yourself “I am a minimalist” “I have made it”.  But sometimes that journey can take a very long time.  At times in my life I had less things than I do now, but I didn’t consider myself a minimalist.

Secondly, just as in everything in life, you can live an intentional life, a mindful life and even a ‘slow’ life.  There are pages and pages about slow living on the internet.  Very interesting.  All those stories that people write about moving out of the city and buying a farm, I love them, that to me is slow living.

Slow Minimalism,

to me it’s about being intentional and gentle with yourself in your practice of minimalism.  We don’t have to arrive at thirty-three articles of clothing, but we can.  There are no magic numbers of how many items you own, but maybe for you there is.  Minimalism is a journey and a daily practice, like meditation, exercise or learning.  The most important thing is to keep at it until you reach your goals and then continue to practice the things you learned along the way to maintain a more mindful life.

Good Luck!

Namaste,  The Slow Minimalist

Moving Day

In the interest of full disclosure, I moved this week.  I must say nothing helps you get quite as clear about what you own and  your minimalism quite like moving does.  It took less time than usual.  I loaded and packed and moved in the same day, all good things.  I did not, however feel like much of a successful minimalist.  I still had boxes of books, bags of clothes, and the assortment of kitchen stuff.  My friend helped me and we did move in one trip.  But I still am left feeling somehow insufficient as a minimalist this week.  I moved from a one room situation in an apartment to a one room situation in a house.  I moved and unpacked most of my stuff, in less time than it took to pack up and load both vehicles for some reason.  I took the day off to move, which I highly suggest to anyone, it was a casual affair and not over taxing.

What did I learn?

I have too much stuff, still.  I think it is good to take measure of where you are at from time to time and seeing all my belongings on the floor of my bedroom was helpful, useful.  I’m a visual learner and this helped me the most, and was frankly the most satisfying aspect of the whole day.

I also learned that I have been lax in selling/getting rid of some items having had to move them yet again.  This is where I need to apply effort.

I also have a get rid of paper project,  of very old papers, mostly poetry and fiction that I need to attend to as well to complete my paperlessness.  (Paper/paper things other than journals is my personal Minimalist bane) and I struggle here the most.

Do I really need all these clothes?

Can I just drive this stuff to the dump?

I also learned that Minimalism is a practice and like any practice requires effort and concentration to maintain it. It is a habit that needs to be used and exercised.  This is where the ‘one in one’ out and the ‘rules’ come from, they are structured to help you keep up your personal practice of owning less.

So what I learned is that I have more that I want to accomplish and that minimalism, is my personal spiritual practice.  I need to sit with what I own,  and really truly come to terms with my belongings, item by item.

Am I willing to let it go?  Do I really need it?  Can I borrow this item?  What do I really want around me?  What do I need?

Good luck in your contemplations this weekend! And remember a slow practice is still a valid practice, and it can be just as successful a practice as one that is fast.  Be gentle with yourself, keep moving forward!  Every step you take is a step closer to the life you want to live, simpler, happier.

Namaste,

Riley

The Slow Minimalist